A volunteer’s eye view of … support #tuneintuesdays

When I had my induction, they told me all about the support they offer to volunteers here and it sounded really good.  It’s nice to know I will be listened to and know where to go if things aren’t going well.  So I’ve had an information sheet from the Volunteer Co-ordinator, it tells me about all the amazing things my support sessions will help with. I can’t wait, I’m going to be really looked after here – look at this!

The first thing it says is:

“The bottom line is that the relationship between the volunteer and the supervisor needs to be collaborative. When there is frequent communication, a volunteer feels supported and valued. We will be offering you support sessions every 6-8 weeks to make sure we support you in your role and show you how much we value your support.”

  • Apparently the most important thing is it will help me build a relationship with my supervisor and the organisation, plus it will make me feel involved and part of the organisation – this sounds great!
  • It will make me want to stay with the organisation and give me a sense of belonging
  • I will feel valued
  • It will help make me more productive
  • Oh this is a good one – it will help boost my skills and experience
  • This is reassuring – it will prevent problems escalating
  • Wow it will be an opportunity to tell them all my good ideas
  • It’s reassuring that they will help to assess if my role is too demanding/not demanding enough
  • Never thought about it before but it will help with my wellbeing
  • Also, it will give the Volunteer Co-ordinator an opportunity to keep me updated on what’s going on within the organisation and anything that may affect the volunteers. That’s great isn’t it, they really value their volunteers here and want to keep them informed.

I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy, aren’t I lucky to be volunteering for such a wonderful, caring organisation?

It was all going so well …

Well I’ve been here 6 months now and I’ve had one support session. It went really well and Claire was really happy with me, she said I had fitted in really well and I’m an asset to the team. In fact she’s promoted me to a more important role, it’s an extra session a week, but I can manage that.   Claire has given me her email address and works mobile number in case I need to get in touch with her and I now have my own email address too.

We had a second session booked, but Claire went off sick and she hasn’t given me another date since. That’s been over 4 months now with no session.  I’m beginning to think she’s avoiding me now.  She seemed really distracted and some of the other volunteers are gossiping about some problems with our funding. I’ve tried to email her to see if she can tell me what’s going on, but she just said not to worry when she did reply.

The thing is I’ve got quite a few things I need to talk to her about. This new role is very demanding, I’m doing lots of extra hours at home as I can’t get my paperwork done whilst I’m volunteering as the clients keep me busy.  I know I’m supposed to return my log sheets straight away after each session, but there is so much to log for each client and volunteers aren’t allowed to access the network because our passwords have all expired. The monitoring gentleman has emailed me a blank form and told me I can fill these in at home and email them to him within 48 hours of the contact.  I was ill last week with the flu and I’ve had a very sarcastic email from him telling me I’m failing in my duties. I really need to talk to Claire.

Oh no, one of the other volunteers has just told me that Claire has left, some of the other staff have been made redundant and we are moving premises.  Someone else is going to be looking after the volunteers now. Apparently it’s likely to be the HR Manager Louis in charge of the volunteer team.

The times they are a changing …

So I’ve just had a quick chat with Louis whilst I was making a cup of tea in the kitchen, I’ve been trying to catch up with him for weeks. He asked me if I could take on another session, as I’m really good with the clients and the day centre manager has been made redundant. I’ve told him I will do my best, but can we do it for a trial period to see if it works out ok. He was so grateful and reassured me it would only be for a few weeks whilst they restructure the post, which is fine for me as I just want to help.

I’m so angry after what happened today and it wasn’t my fault! 

So today I was left on my own in the centre all day with 6 clients and no staff were there, just one other volunteer who will only wash up and make drinks. Everyone wanted a chat today and I felt so frustrated as I felt I couldn’t talk to them all.  Poor Bill, I’m the only person he will talk to and he looked so sad as I only had time for a quick chat, and normally we do the crossword together from his newspaper.

I pinned Louis down in the kitchen [it seems to be the only place I see him nowadays] and told him we really needed to talk as I had a major complaint.  He reluctantly agreed he could spare 5 minutes and what was my problem.  I was hoping we could at least sit down, but no he wanted to chat in the kitchen – it’s hardly private is it?

First of all I explained why I felt so angry and frustrated, and he just leant against the kitchen counter smirking!  He was so condescending and told me I was overreacting, but if it would make me feel better I could tell him exactly what had happened.  Louis just stood there with his arms folded and started looking out of the window. I took a deep breath and tried to calm down.

So I started telling him what had happened and how I felt that I had been abandoned to run the session on my own with no support.  He then says he can see how angry I am and starts patting my hand, and telling me he knows how I feel.  His attitude really wasn’t helping at all and it was about to get a whole lot worse.  Louis starts saying it’s my fault for not telling him my concerns when I arrived or during the morning. That would have been impossible as the first time I’d seen him that day was when I spotted him in the kitchen.  His next solution was to talk to my manager and this incited me still further as he was the volunteer manager, but never there or if he was, was not available.  Louis then started to say that he had experienced the same thing himself many times and I should just suck it up, stop whingeing and get on with it!  I’m a volunteer not a paid member of staff and I told him it was too much responsibility. He responded that he thought I wanted to help and I needed to muck in and help out!

He then starts telling me about his training for a local marathon, his high protein diet and how his speed, and stamina are improving. Talk about changing the subject!  I decided that I may as well give up as he was clearly not interested and maybe it’s a one off and won’t happen again. Let’s stay positive.

I’ve lost my mojo, I’m not enjoying it any more and I’m thinking of leaving, but not sure how to do it.  I haven’t had a support session for ages and Louis didn’t seem interested last time we met in the kitchen and I tried to talk to him about my dissatisfaction. He hasn’t suggested setting up a meeting to talk about my concerns.

I’m feeling stressed, overwhelmed and I don’t feel valued at all. It’s not just me though, other volunteers feel the same when we chat. None of the support I was promised has ever materialised and when I try to catch Louis to talk about it, he rushes off or starts talking about his marathon training again.  Maybe he’s just busy.  The role is too much, I’m now doing three sessions a week and it was supposed to be temporary. Last week I was on my own in the centre for three sessions and they haven’t replaced the centre manager.

My personal circumstances have changed too and I’ve now got to call in and see my Dad every morning because he’s had a fall. I emailed Louis as he won’t talk to me and he says I have to stick to my agreed contract hours, and I should be grateful he’s given me extra responsibility, but I didn’t ask for it!  I’m so fed up and feel I just can’t do it any more, I need to look after Dad he’s my priority.

The atmosphere has really changed, it used to be such a happy place but there’s lots of falling out, gossip and arguments between other volunteers.  I just try to stay out of it.  The general consensus is that the organisation is asking too much of us and using us to replace paid staff, but there’s no-one to raise it with.  One of the volunteers went to the Chief Exec a few weeks ago and got told off by Louis for telling tales.  I just feel really stressed and isolated, I have no-one to talk to.

Maybe it’s my fault and I should have said no to the extra responsibility, it’s me not them and I’m just being unreasonable.  I’ve got no choice I’ve got to leave and it’s such a shame.  Just spoken to Louis and he told me I’m a drama queen and I needn’t expect a reference from him as I am a troublemaker!  Volunteering is clearly not the thing for me 😦

Please don’t forget if you need any help or support I’m happy to help and that’s what I’m here for 🙂  Just contact me on eileen@dudleycvs.org.uk

2 thoughts on “A volunteer’s eye view of … support #tuneintuesdays

  1. Wow, just wow. Sadly though, this happens all too frequently. Telling volunteers we support them and actually supporting volunteers are two vastly different things. Supporting volunteers takes commitment, dedication and endless hard work, so if we set the volunteer’s expectation that they will be supported, then we’d better be able to provide that support. Thanks for this sobering reminder.

    Like

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